Welcome to GeekPots. I create wheel-thrown functional and decorative ceramics, inspired by math, physics, kitchen gadgets, and the occasional chicken.
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A life-long pianist, I find working with clay similar to practicing a musical instrument: both processes invite one to develop attention to form and detail, to balance technique with improvisation, and to discover a personal creative voice.
Alongside music, my background in physics and math informs my art. Physics governs the relationships between the forms and surfaces of my zigzag and swoosh pots. I cut or swipe patterns into slipped cylinders; these expand into captivating organic designs as I stretch the pots from the inside. Friction torques vertical lines into spirals, parallel swooshes drift apart or scrunch together, and coarse canyons emerge between smooth-slipped plateaus. The transformations are different every time, functions of variables both within and beyond my control: initial patterns, depths of cuts, slopes of curves, plasticity of clay bodies, magnitude of expansion, directional spin of the wheel. Occasionally, fortuitous scars appear: an un-wedged air bubble pops and flattens to hug the pot’s surface, or a narrow fault line cracks open as the clay stretches to its limits. I enjoy how this rough evidence of material and process juxtaposes with well-practiced symmetry.
My swooshed surfaces are made using cake decorating combs. Sometimes I apply sodium silicate (a desiccant) before swooshing, which yields a crackle effect.
I once spent a beautiful afternoon perusing kitchen supply shops in Meran, Italy. After spending at least 20 minutes staring at a gadget-laden wall, I was approached by a shopkeeper who asked if I needed assistance. I did my best auf Deutsch to explain that I was a potter seeking tools for surface decoration. I suspect he thought I was a little crazy, but I did eventually leave with a snazzy new ravioli wheel to add to my collection.
My dad was a math professor at the University of Illinois, so I grew up wandering around Altgeld Hall looking at vintage plaster Platonic solids stored in antique oak curio cabinets. Much of my art makes me think about math and physics, from the swoosh and zigzag pots above to the more explicitly mathy Klein bottles, nested spheroids, Cadogan teapot, π plate, and salt rocks below.
CHICKARINAS, PENGUINS, and OTHER BIRDS
Having thrown chickens off the hump for well over a decade, I can confidently say that the egg comes first. My chickens started off as rattles, but evolved into well-tempered ocarinas, which is what happens when you have a PhD in Music Theory and a BS in Physics–so these birds are the culmination of decades of musical training and rigorous academic study. Click here to listen to a chickarina in action. For an explanation of the penguins, click here; and for herons, here.
The ceramic hole (to quote Jacques Derrida’s Of Grammatology) “adds itself, it is a surplus, a plenitude enriching another plenitude, the fullest measure of presence . . . But the supplement supplements. It adds only to replace . . . if it fills, it is as if one fills a void . . . its place is assigned in the structure by the mark of an emptiness.”
Ph.D. Music Theory, minor Linguistics, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1998
B.M. Piano Performance, summa cum laude, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1991
M.S. Astronomy, University of Arizona, Tucson, 1989
B.S. Physics, summa cum laude, University of Illinois, Urbana, 1987
Ceramics classes taken at the Durham Arts Council, Claymakers, and Penland School of Crafts
Workshops taken with Alan Bennett, John Britt, Leonora Coleman, Susan Feagin, Marty Fielding, Denny Gerwin, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Jim Lawton, Vince Pitelka, Deborah Schwartzkopf, Gay Smith, and Carolyn Wyland
RELEVANT WORK EXPERIENCE
Independent Studio Artist, 2010-present
Instructor, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2007-present
SOLO AND DUO EXHIBITS
Claymakers, Circle of Influence, two-person show, Durham, NC, January 17-March 14, 2020
Carol Woods Retirement Community, solo 3D show, Chapel Hill, NC, April 13-May 18, 2018
Cedar Creek Gallery,CUPful, Creedmoor, NC, January 16-February 28, 2021
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XVI, Gainesville, FL, October 3-November 1, 2020
ClayAKAR, Yunomi Invitational 2020, Iowa City, IA, June 12-June 26, 2020
Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show XI, Creedmoor, NC, May 16-September 7, 2020
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms II, Gainesville, FL, February 22-March 20, 2020
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XV, Gainesville, FL, October 1-November 1, 2019
Claymakers, Steinfest 2019, Durham, NC, September 27-November 10, 2019
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIV, Gainesville, FL, October 6-November 20, 2018
Claymakers, Steinfest 2018, Durham, NC, September 27-November 10, 2018
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Exquisite Forms, online, February 17-March 16, 2018
Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor, NC, January 13-February 26, 2018
Greenhill Center for NC Art, Winter Show 2017, Greensboro, NC, December 3, 2017-January 13, 2018
Charlie Cummings Gallery, Cup: The Intimate Object XIII, online, October 7-November 3, 2017
Claymakers, Steinfest 2017, Durham, NC, September 29-November 11, 2017
Cedar Creek Gallery, National Teapot Show X, Creedmoor, NC, May 19-September 5, 2017
FRANK Gallery, Pots from the Piedmont, Chapel Hill, NC, October 9-November 30, 2016
Claymakers, Steinfest 2016, Durham, NC, September 30-November 14, 2016
Cedar Creek Gallery, CUPful, Creedmoor, NC, January 9-February 21, 2016
Perkinson Art Gallery, Millikin University, Just Use It, Decatur, IL, December 1-10, 2015
Cinema Gallery, Use It: A Show of Functional Ceramics, Urbana, IL, June 21-Augst 29, 2015
Claymakers, Steinfest 2015, Durham, NC, September 25-November 15, 2015
Mathematics of Science, Art, Industry, and Culture (www.mosaicmathart.org), traveling exhibit, June 2014-September 2016
Claymakers, Steinfest 2014, Durham, NC, October 3-November 21, 2014
Baltimore Clayworks, Southern Hospitality, Baltimore, MD, 11 January-22 February 2014
Claymakers, Steinzeugkrug: Present Day Interpretations, Durham, NC, October 4-November 16, 2013
Claymakers, Line and Rhythm, Durham, NC, November 16, 2012-January 12, 2013
Cinema Gallery, All Steamed Up Invitational Teapot Show, Urbana, IL, December 3, 2011-January 21, 2012
Claymakers, Season of Lights, Durham, NC, November 18, 2011-January 14, 2012
Small Favors, The Clay Studio, Philadelphia, PA, March 6-April 25, 2021
28th Strictly Functional Pottery National, online, September 26-October 31, 2020
Sculpture in the Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, NC, September 16-December 6, 2020
Mathematical Art Exhibition, 2019 Joint Mathematics Meetings, Baltimore, MD, January 16-19, 2019
A community art project to make the impacts of global warming on distant places more immediately tangible to makers and viewers, the Potters’ Penguin Project energized nearly 600 makers to create over 2,000 handmade clay penguins, and raised $5,000 to support environmental advocacy non-profits.
Claymakers Gallery, Durham, NC, January 10-February 11, 2017 (1,973 penguins)
North Carolina State University Crafts Center gallery, Raleigh, NC, February 20-April 28, 2017 (600+ penguins)
Greensboro Science Center, Greensboro, NC, April 25-May 20, 2017 (200+ penguins)
North Carolina Science Festival, lectures and public Make-a-Penguin events, North Carolina State University, sponsored by Research Triangle MRSEC, April 8, 2017
Multiple public/independent school Make-a-Penguin workshops, Durham, NC, 2016-2017
Multiple public Make-a-Penguin events, Claymakers, Durham, NC, 2016
“From Our Supporters,” Earthjustice Quarterly Magazine, Spring 2019
“Potters’ Penguin Project,” INDY Week, January 9, 2017
This past March, I joined a group of artists, mathematicians, and mathematician-artists collaborating on a math-art installation that is generating layer upon layer of mathematical and artistic thought, narrative, punning, and play. For me, during this summer of covid, the “Mathemalchemy” project has been an opportunity both to get to know a bunch of really …
First came chickens (well, eggs, but that’s another story), then came penguins; now come herons. Wheel thrown and altered, underglazes and sponged glazes , ^6 oxidation, standing on #8-32 threaded zinc-coated steel rods. In an interesting reminder that physics is always at play in pottery, the bird necks twisted clockwise during firing. Given that the …
I’ve had my hands in clay since 2002, but it took Covid-19 to nudge me into creating a real website–one that’s more professional than my longtime blogger.com blog (which includes non-ceramics content) and more attractive and more malleable than Facebook. Thanks for visiting the site, and for bearing with me as I figure out how …